Last week Ifbyphone CEO Irv Shapiro joined tastytrade on their YouTube show to discuss strategies for growing business and coping with some of the big changes we see happening in e-commerce. E-commerce is wonderful, Shapiro says in his interview, but it’s leaving behind millions of customers: Millions of transactions are done online, but over 50% of commerce done in North America—with business categories like real estate, home service, insurance, and more—require an actual conversation between people before a transaction can occur.
E-commerce and Conversation
Call centers are expensive. The staffing and space aren’t cheap, and the software required to make those systems work is often an extra hassle that companies don’t want to deal with. It is for these reasons that e-commerce companies don’t always encourage phone conversations with their customers, and this is what Shapiro says is the reason that those vast amounts of customers are being left behind.
There are some interesting stats to support this. According to a survey by IMShopping, 77% of online shoppers say they have wanted to talk to a live person before buying, and another study shows that 43% of all e-commerce transactions that begin with a web search end in a telephone call—yet many e-commerce companies aren’t providing a way for their customers to get in touch with them via phone. The Contact Us form isn’t always the best substitute either: Research shows that that 55.3% of top companies don’t respond to web leads. So when customers have questions that they need answered before they purchase, what happens to your lead? Honestly, they’re disappearing into the trash. If your customers want to talk to you and you’re either not providing them a way to get in touch or you’re not responding to their inquiries, they’re going to go to your competitor.
The Abandoned Shopping Cart
Every online retailer knows the pain of the abandoned shopping cart, but not all of them connect that reality with the possibility that their customers needed to reach them but can’t. In their attempts to conquer the abandoned shopping cart, A/B tests are performed, website design is rearranged, and more. But if 77% of online shoppers say they have wanted to talk to a live person before buying, there’s a possibility that they reached the shopping cart stage and had questions…but couldn’t get answers to those questions. Adding a phone number to the checkout page may not be enough: If your phone tree is complicated or makes reaching a live agent difficult, you may frustrate your customer just enough to drive them off your website.
The Un-Call Center Solution
Some e-commerce companies already recognize the value of being available for their customers, but the issues of cost, space, and software involved with setting up a call center are too contentious. That’s where the virtual call center comes in.
With a virtual call center—or the un-call center, as we call it—everything is stored in the cloud, so there’s no need for additional software or equipment setup. Additionally, extra staff isn’t required. Any of your employees can be an un-call center agent, since any phone can be linked to the system: mobile, home, work, or even Skype. With the cost factor and the space/staffing factor nonexistent, there’s really no reason that an e-commerce company shouldn’t make itself available for customers who need to talk.
Efficient and intelligent call routing and IVR is bound to have an impact on whether online shoppers complete a transaction as well. Whether they’re calling from the shopping cart stage or picking up the phone after first landing on your website’s homepage, having a system that is capable of routing that caller directly to the agent most qualified to handle the type of inquiry they have can mean the difference between a frustrated prospect and a quick conversion.
With statistics like 77% of online shoppers wanting to talk, and 43% of all e-commerce transactions ending in a phone call, the stakes are high. Providing your shoppers with the opportunity to reach you when they need to—and a response when they do reach out—can change the business you do in a big way.